People who are bilingual have the opportunity to use this skill as a basis for their career. The most obvious area is as an interpreter or translator.
Interpretation and translation are different professions, although some people do both. Interpreters tend to work both into and from both languages (i.e., the 'source' and 'target' language), whereas translators usually only work in one direction, into their native language. Both professions require fluency in at least two languages - the native and the second language. The second language must be understood, written and spoken to near perfection.
Interpreters and translators may work in a variety of areas, including business, social services, or entertainment. Conference interpreters work at events that involve non-English-speaking delegates, such as international business, academic and political events. They may also work with any organisation that hires foreign speakers.
Both kinds do more than translate words, as they have to convey ideas and concepts between speakers and readers of different languages. This means that they must thoroughly understand the subject matter they're working with. They must also be sensitive to the cultures associated with the different languages they're working with.
Other professions where bilingual skills can be used are: teaching and lecturing, writing / editing, software development and engineering, healthcare, the judiciary, the police and military forces. Guide or escort interpreters accompanying visitors in foreign countries also use bilingual skills to ensure smooth communication.
Prior to undertaking the project, the interpreter must ensure they are familiar with the subject matter in hand. They usually travel to the location where the interpretation is to take place, although occasionally it can be conducted over the phone. There are two styles of working:
- In simultaneous interpretation, usually required in conferences, courts and medical situations, the interpreter begins to convey the sentence being spoken while the speaker is still talking. This means they need to listen and speak at the same time, so familiarity with the subject matter helps. Simultaneous interpreters usually work in pairs, each working for a 20 to 30-minute segment. This type of interpretation is required at international conferences.
- Constructive interpretation, used for one-to-one conversations such as negotiations, is slightly different, because the speaker finishes a series of sentences before the interpreter starts to convey their words. These interpreters often take notes in shorthand or some other notation system.
The translator usually reads the document from beginning to end first. Next, they look up any unfamiliar words and do any extra research that is needed in order to fully understand the text. They might talk to the writer or agency who provided the text to clarify any points. Once the first draft is complete, the translator sends it back to the originator, who then checks it and returns it to the translator for further revisions.
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Would a Bilingual Career Suit You?
Interpreters usually work with the spoken language, so you need to be able to pay attention over prolonged periods of time and express thoughts clearly. You will need an excellent memory, along with good research and analytical skills.
Translators must have excellent written and analytical abilities. Because the documents they translate must be as flawless as possible, they also need good editing skills. Translated text must flow as smoothly as if written in its original language, so the translator must have a good feel for the rhythm and 'feel' of the language, too. Due to technological advances, many translators now work from home, using PCs and digital communications.
The educational backgrounds of interpreters and translators vary. Knowing a language in addition to a native language is a given. Although it is not necessary to have been raised in a bilingual environment to succeed, many interpreters and translators grew up speaking two languages. Although training requirements can vary, almost all interpreters and translators have a Bachelor's degree.
A fifth of these professionals are typically freelance, meaning they are subject to the ups and downs of demand for their services. Consequently, many work on a part-time basis.
Salary and Prospects for Bilingual Careers
The services of interpreters and translators are needed in a number of subject areas. While these workers may not completely specialise in a particular field or industry, many do focus on one area of expertise. Job prospects for interpreters and translators vary by specialty.
Working environments of interpreters and translators vary. Interpreters work in a variety of settings, which they must travel to. Interpreters may work at home or in their own office, or by phone in urban call centres, where they will work standard length weeks (but with variable hours).
Given the growth of the global economy, employment in these industries is likely to increase. Likewise, the increasing number of foreign speakers resident in English speaking countries has boosted the demand within the healthcare, social support and justice systems.
How Can You Improve Your CV For Bilingual Careers?
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